Insure Your Boat In and Out of the Water

Millions of Americans take to the water each year during boating season, traveling the coastlines, rivers, lakes and canals all over the country. The watercraft range from simple rowboats to jet skis to small motorboats to luxury yachts. Boat owners spend significant amounts of money buying and maintaining their boats. The need for insurance protection when the boat is on the water is obvious, but many boat owners question the need for it during the off-season. However, insurance is just as important when the boat is in storage as when the owner is using it.

A typical boat insurance policy provides a package of coverages, including:

* Damage to the boat, motor, and trailer;

* Damage to portable property used in the maintenance and operation of the boat, including things like anchors, life jackets, oars, tools, skis and surfboards, lights, and fire extinguishers;

* Damage to other types of property, including sports equipment, clothing, and other personal effects;

* Damage to equipment on shore, such as boat covers;

* The cost of recovering a sunk or stranded boat;

* The cost of emergency service and towing;

* Damage to non-owned or substitute boats;

* Loss of fishing tackle;

* Liability coverage for injuries or damages for which the boat owner is legally responsible; and

* Coverage for injuries the boat owner or others on the boat suffer in an accident with an uninsured watercraft.

A boat owner will need these coverages if her boat gets into a collision with another boat, or if thieves steal scuba gear from it, or if fire damages the motor. However, losses are still possible while the boat is out of the water. Progressive Insurance reports that nearly two out of every 10 boat claims it receives from northern states occur between Labor Day and Memorial Day, when most owners are not using their boats much. Some examples of losses that could occur:

* The storage building housing the boat over the winter burns to the ground.

* Vandals damage the boat in the middle of the night while it’s in the owner’s driveway.

* A neighbor’s child, playing in the owner’s yard, runs into the boat stored there and injures his head.

* Someone steals the boat and its trailer from the yard at a repair shop.

* While the boat is stored in the yard, heavy snow melt causes a flash flood that damages the boat’s interior, including the mechanical system and the radio.

Some insurance companies offer “disappearing deductibles,” where the deductibles for collision and damage losses from other causes decrease by a certain amount for every claim-free year the policyholder has. Those companies will grant this benefit only to boat owners who keep their insurance continuously in force with them.

A professional insurance agent can provide advice on the types and amounts of coverage a boat owner needs. She can also recommend insurance companies that have expertise in boating, good claims-paying practices, and reasonable prices. Insuring a boat all year round can be expensive, but compared to the cost of a large uninsured loss, it may well be worth the cost.